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Mobile Operator EE Set UK Live Date for Commercial 5G Network

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019 (10:38 am) - Score 5,769

Mobile operator EE (BT) has today moved to steal some of Vodafone’s thunder by announcing that their own commercial ultrafast 5G mobile (mobile broadband) network will go live (non-trial) from 30th May 2019 in parts of London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. New rollout locations for 2020 have also been confirmed.

The operator has already begun several trials of the new network using the 3.4GHz band, although the lack of supporting 5G capable Smartphones meant that initially these were primarily focused upon 1Gbps+ capable fixed wireless broadband ISP style connections for homes and businesses (here and here).

Likewise the initial rollout will be gradual and urban centric (i.e. busiest parts of each city), which is partly because the operators have to wait for Ofcom to auction off a number of additional radio spectrum bands (e.g. 700MHz and 3.6-3.8GHz) before they can make the best use of the new technology. Sadly those bands aren’t likely to be released to them until 2020, which assumes the auction process isn’t delayed.. again.

Nevertheless EE says they deploying 5G “rapidly from today” and intend to add more than 100 new sites per month (each is expected to be linked via a 10Gbps fibre line). The initial rollout locations are the same as announced at the end of 2018 (here), although they’ve just confirmed the next batch of areas for early 2020 (Aberdeen, Cambridge, Derby, Gloucester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Worcester and Wolverhampton).

ee 5g rollout map 2019 2020

The first 1,500 sites to benefit currently carry 25% of all data across the whole network, but only cover 15% of the UK population. As you’d expect EE will also launch this alongside several new 5G plans (SIM-Only and handset bundles), including a range of six supporting smartphones (Samsung S10 5G, OnePlus 7 Pro 5G, LG V50 ThinQ and Oppo Reno 5G) and devices (e.g. a 5GEE Home router with external antenna that can connect individual homes to ultrafast broadband).

NOTE: The 5GEE home router and plans will be unveiled in June 2019 and offer “consistently reliable speeds“. EE is also launching 5GEE WiFi with the HTC 5G Hub, which will be available with an upfront cost of £100 and with 50GB of data per month for £50 per month, or for £75 per month with 100GB.

The new 5G Smart plans, which start from 10GB at £54 per month and extend up to 120GB for £74 per month (expensive) when bundled with a smartphone, will also give customers access to some new Swappable BenefitsBT Sport HD HDR TV content (normally £15), an exclusive Gamer’s Data Pass with zero-rated data (£7.99), a chance to upgrade anytime and get a device warranty for the duration of their contract.

EE service packs provide:

– £10 towards one of our premium cases or screen protectors to keep their device protected.

– An annual device and EE mobile account MOT.

– An extended device warranty for the lifetime of the customer’s contract.

Customers taking the top 120GB plan will be able to choose from three swappable benefits included into their price, while others can pick two. Meanwhile SIM-Only plans start from 20GB per month (£32 per month) and rise to 100GB (£52 per month).

Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s Consumer division, said:

“This is the start of the UK’s 5G journey and great news for our customers that want and need the best connections. We’ve started with 5G in some of the busiest parts of the UK, the widest range of 5G devices in the UK, and plans that give customers the best mobile connection and great benefits.

We’re adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network to increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most. 5G will create new experiences with augmented reality, make our customers’ lives easier, and help launch entirely new businesses that we haven’t even imagined. We’re upgrading more than 100 sites to 5G every month from today to connect more places to what 5G can enable.

Our partnerships with Google and Niantic are just the start of our commitment to work with the most innovative and exciting companies in the world to ensure that EE customers are the first to benefit from the exciting new experiences that 5G will bring.”

EE said they expect customers to experience an increase in speeds of around 100-150Mbpseven in the busiest areas“. Apparently “some customers” are also predicted to break the 1Gbps (1000Mbps+) milestone on their 5G smartphones (the fastest speed possible when EE launched 4G in 2012 was just 50Mbps). Mind you the attached picture displays a test running at 544Mbps downstream via a Community Fibre Ltd. server in London.

All of the above is said to reflect Phase 1 of EE’s 5G rollout: a ‘non-standalone’ deployment focused on using the combined power of 4G and 5G to give customers the “fastest, most reliable mobile broadband experience they’ve ever had.” But they also have two more phases that will run until 2033.

Phase 2, from 2022, will introduce the full next generation 5G core network, enhanced device chipset capabilities, and increased availability of 5G-ready spectrum. “Higher bandwidth and lower latency, coupled with expansive and growing 5G coverage, will enable a more responsive network, enabling truly immersive mobile augmented reality, real-time health monitoring, and mobile cloud gaming. Phase 2 is also a vital step on our journey to the convergence of our network technologies, as we bring together fixed, mobile and WiFi into one seamless customer experience,” said EE.

Phase 3, from 2023, will introduce Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), Network Slicing and multi-gigabit per second speeds. “This phase of 5G will enable critical applications like real-time traffic management of fleets of autonomous vehicles, massive sensor networks with millions of devices measuring air quality across the entire country, and the ‘tactile internet’, where a sense of touch can be added to remote real-time interactions,” added the operator.

All of this sounds like very good news, although it may initially be a tougher sell to convince consumers that 5G is worth it on their Smartphone vs the existing 4G services (ultrafast speeds aren’t as important on a small screen, particularly if you can already get good speeds).

On the other hand this does enable EE to skip ahead of Vodafone’s recently announced 3rd July 2019 launch (here), although the big V also promised 5G at the same price as 4G and that’s a key difference. Still it’s worth noting that Three UK’s forthcoming 5G launch may be the one to watch since they have a much larger block of 5G friendly spectrum ready, which could produce better speeds (provided they have the capacity to fuel it).

Swappable Benefits for EE 5G Smart Plans

BT SPORT APP HDR (exclusive to 5G plans, and worth £15 per month) – Offering more vivid, life-like colours, and greater detail in darker or brighter areas of the picture, with casting to your television

GAMER’S DATA PASS (worth £7.99 per month) – EE is introducing the Gamer’s Data Pass to cover all the data customers use on a wide selection of games like Pokemon Go, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite at Twitch so they never have to worry about draining their data allowance

VIDEO DATA PASS (worth £8.99 per month) – Stream selected video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BT Sport, TV Player and MTV Play without using your data

MUSIC DATA PASS (worth £7.99 per month) – Stream selected music services such as Apple Music, Tidal & Deezer without using your data

ROAMING PASS (worth £10 per month) – Use your allowance in the USA, Mexico, Canada, Australia & New Zealand, as well as across the EU

BT SPORT APP (worth £10 per month) – Access to the standard BT Sport app

Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Avatar Adslmax says:

    No 5G coverage for Telford by end of 2020 the nearer are Wolverhampton

    1. Avatar Mike says:

      If 4G is anything to go by it probably won’t be until 2022-3 until you start to see mass coverage.

    2. Avatar CarlT says:

      Starting in the cities which Telford is not.

  2. Avatar Toby Adams says:

    I don’t get the point of this with usage caps. 10GB could be used up in a couple of minutes if you are near a 5G node.

    Unlimited data MUST be the future of 5G, otherwise what is the point?

    1. Avatar Darren says:

      There is only so much spectrum, if you start giving everyone unlimited data the speeds would crawl. Ever been to a stadium event?

    2. Avatar Adam says:

      Its so they can sell their “smart plans” We will have to pay for separate packages to download/stream unlimited amounts of data on those certain services.

      “VIDEO DATA PASS (worth £8.99 per month) – Stream selected video services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BT Sport, TV Player and MTV Play without using your data”

      The gamer pass too. That will probably allow one to download large updates on their ps4/xbox etc. Watch twitch streams without using data, maybe.

      I’m worried that this will become the standard thing in the future. This isn’t a fair internet. People should not have to pay for packages to watch Netflix in bulk. Just give us unlimited amounts of data.

    3. Avatar Mike says:

      It’s quite simple, only go with operators that offer unlimited usage…then EE etc. will have to change.

    4. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      Darren – you’re conflating spectrum with contention and backhaul resourcing.

      A large number of concurrent clients e.g. at an event currently places pressure on the spectrum and the backhaul. 5G will alleviate this to some extent similar to how faster WiFi with MU-MIMO tech helps with WiFi networks under the same kinds of challenges.

      Capping data does not help in the usage case of a large event though because a data cap discourages general use of data, not use of data when it’s necessary i.e. when you’re at a large stadium event.

      Demand is also not driven by capacity. For example, if electricity for cars was made free of charge all of a sudden there would be additional demand for it but only to a point where the drivers could not put any more electricity into their cars. Just because it’s there free (no usage cap) doesn’t increase their incentive to charge their car past a certain point. Demand is never driven up infinitely just because availability is “unlimited”.

  3. Avatar GucciGang says:

    10gb all the way to 120gb.. no thanks. Vodafone and Three better offer 1TB-Unlimited if they want to do 5G the right way.

    1. Avatar Mike says:

      I’d be very surprised if Three doesn’t do unlimited 5G considering they want to take on the landline market.

  4. Avatar t0m5k1 says:

    More rollouts to areas where I’m not.

    I’m gonna have to get used to being in the slow lane for everything i access at home.

  5. Avatar Mark says:

    Wow!!! Both limited and pointless and incredibly expensive all at once!
    The SIM only plan even starts from £12 more then what others offer unlimited 4G for!
    They will be milking the early adopters here for sure.

    1. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      Can you come up with any good reason why, when it is commonplace throughout many industries, early adopters should not pay a premium?

      This technology is not cheap to deploy and make use of. The companies have had to pay stacks of money for the spectrum. For many use cases 4G satisfies user requirements.

      EE et al are private companies that operate in the name of making a profit.

      So could you kindly explain to me why they should roll this out at no extra cost – which is what I infer from your tone is what you think should be happening?

  6. Avatar Moses says:

    Yep (no doubt) the tariffs for 5G will be expensive at first, but as usual overtime, the price will even out ( smooth itself out as more people gradually jump on the 5G phones/tariffs).

  7. Avatar bahamad says:

    new copper cables coming up increasing dial up speeds pretty understandable.

  8. Avatar Abduljabaar@aol.com says:

    I have very enjoyable experience with copper cables i get about 0.50mbps upload speeds.One of the fastest internet speeds in the uk

  9. Avatar Peterson Bertalinon says:

    @Abduljabaar i kinda disagree with you fellow. I have boosted copper cables and i get 0.75mbps upload speeds. I’m on ultra fast fiber pro unlimited supreme premium deluxe luxury package with copperbubble provider. So you don’t have fastest internet provider actually. I’m so happy like a pig in the mud.

  10. Avatar Mark says:

    Can’t believe Oxford, with its thousands of students have not been included!

  11. Avatar Neb says:

    Reality check – 4G launched in UK when 2013?

    My home town has 4 masts in it, going by the mast map today. These serve 65K properties and I get full signal 4G+ coverage…. they touted I think it was 80Mbps day one. To this day only get between 10Mbps and 20Mbps and that’s using the latest apple and android devices.

    I can’t help but feel that 5G is the next big marketing wheel to be spun to squeeze more wonga out of us plebs. Look at the Verizon launch in the states – terrible (although think I read it was a bonded 4G (don’t quote me on that)).

    Baring in mind it’s currently 4 masts for 65K premises… won’t 5G need, not only shed loads of full fibre connectivity but 1 powered micro mast every 10-20 properties?

    If so that’s nuts in itself and not only that it’ll likely only deliver the speeds reliable on a good day when you stand on a roof near the mast, like the lady in the marketing picture. I doubt those in a building will ever see the benefit.

    Clearly I’m advocating full fibre any day of the week, indeed it doesn’t happen with it anyway.

    Does anyone else think this?

  12. Avatar Jack says:

    Shame Stoke-on-Trent aren’t on the rollout list with a population of around 300,000 compared to Derby with with around a third of that.

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      Derby is more populated than Stoke-on-Trent?

    2. Avatar Stephen Wakeman says:

      Stoke on Trent showed a population of 261K in 2016, Derby 2011 census was in the region of 248K (likely to be higher now 8 years on).

      Your figures don’t add up.

    3. Avatar Jack says:

      The census data is weird in the Stoke area as it neighbours with Newcastle-Under-Lyme but is split up. In nearly everyone’s local mind in Stoke we all consider NuL to be within Stoke but not part of it.

  13. Avatar kaptainkandikat says:

    The 5G plans range from £54/month for 10GB of data, to £74/month for 120GB. SIM-only plans are pegged at £32/month for 20GB data, up to £52/month for 100GB.

    best of luck trying to peddle plans and devices at that price.

  14. Avatar Yikes says:

    “£10 towards one of our premium cases or screen protectors to keep their device protected.”

    Never mind the tariff costs, whats this nonsense…
    £10 “Towards” a screen protector! What are they made out of if they charge more than £10 for a single one of them? Christ people must be stupid to go with this lot.

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